After reading Bernadette's post about Holinxiety, I felt like I had to write this post. Every year, my family gets together for Thanksgiving dinner (in the South, that means "dinner" is the same as "lunch"). I come from a big farming family and we have cousins out the wahzoo. In 3rd grade, I had to do a geneology project and counted up to 300+ before I finished with the 3rd cousins. It's one of my favorite things that happens all year when we drive into the church parking lot (we rent the fellowship hall) and see my family walking in with their chicken pastry, pies, home-grown vegetables, and other morsels of pure delectable delight! But, I also know that the questioning will begin - not intending to hurt, offend, or cause stress, there will inevitably be someone who asks when we're going to have a little playmate for their child.
When I get back to school, after the holiday, it's full steam ahead for Christmas. We try to help the parents out by writing the letter to Santa (which gets sent home in an envelope marked "To the parents of ______"). This way, they can have an idea what their kids want for sure as well as that keepsake to mark the passing of time. However, about 6 years ago, I came into the school system just after Christmas, I had a child return to the classroom who had gotten nothing Christmas day. Nothing, at all. Not candy, not A present, not a stocking. Nothing.
I doubt there will come a time when I forget that child's strong, proud disposition - not wanting to show the sadness and disappointment. In that moment, I didn't yet have enough experience to see the poverty that was so carefully hidden all around me. I was working in a school system that had been labeled "Title 1" across the entire county. More than 80% of the children between the preschool level and 12th grade received free or reduced lunch. For anyone who reads this outside the USA, this means that the family's income is so low that the State picks up the tab for the kid to have a free breakfast and either free or reduced cost lunch. For some of my kids over the years, those 2 meals were the only ones they got - weekends, there was little or nothing at all for some. It was heartbreaking.
Remembering the face of that child, the next year, Harris and I decided to redistribute our Christmas money. We took a small part of what we'd planned to spend on family or friends (and a large part of what we'd planned to spend on each other) and "adopted" a child for Christmas thru the social worker. Over the years, I have worked directly with the social worker at school to find the kids whose parents are down on their luck and may not be able to provide that Christmas morning all children deserve. We get a list - needs, wants, favorite candy, etc. - and then shop on their parents' behalf. We do what we can, always getting the needs done, and we aim for pulling 2-3 of the wants. Plus, we do a stocking. Once everything is wrapped, we deliver it to the social worker with a list of the contents so the parents will be able to supplement with whatever they'd like - if they'd like.
The other thing that goes to the social worker for delivery is a note to the parents. More than they could ever imagine, their circumstances have helped to heal my soul and quiet the longing in ways for which I can never possibly repay. For just a short while, I get to shop on the toy aise, in the girls' or boys' department, and buy tiny shoes for feet that run, jump, and play everyday. This year, with the money coming out for surrogacy, I was concerned about how many children I could sponsor. So, I called and hit up family to "adopt" my children. Between me, Harris, family, and family's family, we were able to sponsor 5 more kids.
Not many people know that we do this - it's not something we do to get "points" or credit for. I'm not posting it here for self-glorification. It's something that, on some primal levels, is done selfishly to help us make it thru Christmas without our hearts breaking. My goal in posting this is to possibly open some eyes in the way that mine were opened 6 years ago. Please consider looking to the schools in your community and sponsoring a child, or a family, for Christmas. Ask for the school social worker or a guidance counselor who can help you find the family that's going to benefit most from your assistance. I encourage you to channel that yearning we all share this time of year into energy that can really make a difference in the life of a child.
Just consider it...